What connects a skate-board park in Hampton Wick, with a charismatic NGO leader from the far, far south of India, and a Canadian professor of physics and Indian scripture? And all in 36 hours?
There is a simple answer to this question, which you won’t learn till you finish reading this!
At Church Grove, just on the edge of the lovely, water-rich acres of royal Bushy Park, you pass the clatter and bang of skate-boards and BMXs performing daring leaps and turns – a happy safe zone for young boarders and bikers to congregate with their own café – The Kcafe – all run by our new friend Dan.
This past weekend, Dan had organised an open day and you’d have found Jeevika’s own community liaison officer Becky Buchanan wo-manning a stand telling visitors about Jeevika and its work, and promoting our 2012 Walk for Water, starting at 2 p.m. on Sunday 30 September from the very same Kcafe. Though it was rather a grey day, Becky made several new friends, potential walkers and other supporters.
This was Jeevika’s first presence of this kind in the Hampton Wick community, and an excellent start.
In Tamil Nadu, you can’t get further south in the whole huge Indian sub-continent than the districts of Tuticorin, Tirunelveli and Kanyakumari – home to some 2.5 million people in about 550 villages who are supported in terms of access to water, health-care, education and livelihood by Jeevika’s Indian NGO partner Social Change and Development (SCAD), founded and led by Dr Cletus Babu with his wife Amali.
SCAD’s work over the past two decades and more with these villagers has made a huge and irreversible impact on the grinding rural poverty which 60 years of independence have allowed to persist: SCAD’s philosophy has always given special attention to minority groups like salt-pan workers, gypsies, leprosy-sufferers, as well as young and adult people who suffer from mental and physical disabilities.
Jeevika is proud to have funded SCAD and collaborated with them in both water and livelihood projects – including the restoration of oorani ponds like the one you see below – and is now planning to expand this collaboration with focus on water and women’s livelihood projects during the coming year.
And then this past Monday morning you’d have found Cletus and Amali, with their UK host Katie Allen, round a table in Hampton Wick sharing some strategic thinking and plans for this new work.
They then rushed off to try and fit in a visit to the Olympic Park before their next engagement. The Paralympics express much the same lively sense that motivates Cletus of the potential for disabled people if one concentrates on what they can achieve – not what they cannot do.
The final point in this hidden link is Professor Ravi Ravindra, who spent his early years in India before moving to an eminent career as a thinker and teacher in Canada – currently Emeritus at Dalhousie University in Halifax. He’s a frequent speaker in the UK and those who’ve heard him recognise they are in the presence of a rare and wide-ranging intellect spanning comparative religion, philosophy and physics – but having a special profound identity with the Indian scriptures.
On Monday evening, it just so happened he was speaking in north London on ‘The Heart of the Spiritual Quest in India,’ particularly about knowledge and ignorance in the context of self-knowledge and the great Indian metaphysical question KO HAM? – Who am I? When we say “I” do we mean body, mind, ego or spirit? The universe outside, and the universe within.
He can always be relied on to send one home with unanswerable questions in mind as well as a feeling of being a little wiser each time! For Jeevika’s founder E.F. Schumacher, the spiritual dimension was also always integral with his economics and his humanity.
And of course by now you’ll have guessed what was the link between the skate-boards, the Tamil villages and the Canadian professor: could the link be India?
Of course it is – but it’s also someone who was present on all three occasions over these last 36 hours…
That’s me, Andrew – and I’m glad to have a chance to share these exciting updates with you. As always, please feel free to leave a comment below if you have any questions about our work or our upcoming plans!
Image of Professor Ravindra courtesy of Quest Books.